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Friday, June 08, 2007

Green-Wood hawk progress

Mulberries ripening

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

I eventually made it over to the cemetery this afternoon. It was fairly late, but it worked out anyway.

I arrived at about 2:45PM and the two eyass were sleeping in the nest. My first thought was, "lazy bones". Then I chuckled when I noticed an uneaten squirrel drapped across the center of the nest. The hawks probably ate just before I arrived because they didn't move for a long time. It gave me time to move my tripod around to different positions, trying to find the best spot to shoot a video clip through my scope. I ended up across the road at the bottom of the hill in an nice shady spot. The wind was blowing hard and the tree was swaying back and forth. I began to worry that the younger hawk wouldn't try to fly in such strong gusts.

While I was waiting an Osprey flew into view and circled above the hill. He whistled a few times, as if he were calling a mate or offspring. I'm not sure what he was doing over that park of Brooklyn, but I'm certain that there aren't any Osprey nests in the vicinity. The closest is probably River Road in Staten Island or Long Beach.

By 4PM I was beginning to doubt that I'd see any activity at all. I was lying on the grass when the small hawk suddenly jumped up from his siesta. With the camera running, he put on a show for me. The dead squirrel became a new play thing. He footed the lifeless rodent several times, jumped up in the air with it in his foot and, finally, took a few bites. What happened next took me completely by surprise.

Landing strip in linden tree (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

Perfect landing (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

He hop-flapped up onto the branch that he had been practicing on yesterday. The wind had really picked up speed and I was having trouble keeping him in frame. With his head lowered, he lifted his shoulders up above his back and tipped into the wind. He started to flap and, in less than a minute, leaned forward and took off. It wasn't the most graceful flight that I've ever seen, but he made a perfect landing in the middle of a sprawling linden tree south of the nest.

Big Mama must have been watching from a distance. A few minutes after the little one made his first flight, she flew into her favorite cedar tree where she could keep a watchful eye. She chirped a few times and I expected her eyas to respond, but he didn't. Instead, Junior flew in from the ridge to the south and perched in a tree very close to the linden where his youngest was perched.

Big Mama monitoring her youngest

Junior comes too

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

I stayed until 6PM, thanked Big Mama and family for allowing me such a special experience and walked back to the bus.

I'm not sure how frequently I will check in on the young raptors. The selfish part of me wants to track them frequently and watch as they learn to become independent hunters. Then there's the feeling that maybe I should walk away and not come back, at least not to search for them. Sometimes I imagine touching their feathers or petting their heads. They may be urban hawks but the reality is that they are wild animals not pets and our two worlds require, at minimum a respectful buffer of distance. I'll see them again eventually.

Red-tailed Hawk feather (click to enlarge)

(Photo credit - Rob Jett)

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